Newsletter December 2014

The Secret Project Edition

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Hello, and welcome to this month's Von Neumann Defense Force newsletter! I'm Hanno, VNDF's lead developer and chief newsletter engineer. This month, I'm going to talk about the following topics:

  • Inspirations: FTL: In the fourth and final installation of the series about games that inspire Von Neumann Defense Force, I'll talk about a true masterpiece: FTL: Faster Than Light
  • Development Update: What happened since the last newsletter and what do I plan to work on next?
  • In Other News: Happenings from around the web that VNDF aficionados might take interest in.

Have fun with this month's newsletter and please email any feedback to Do you have any questions about VNDF in general or the contents of this newsletter specifically? Let me know!

Inspirations: FTL

You might have heard about FTL already, it's a very successful game after all. If you haven't, I recommend you clear your schedule before trying it. This is the kind of game that will draw you in and not let go until you've spent way too many hours exploring everything it has to offer. Don't say I didn't warn you!

FTL is a very different game from what I want Von Neumann Defense Force to be. After all, it's a rogue-like with a strong single-player experience, where VNDF attempts to be a multiplayer sandbox game. However, FTL does a lot of things right that, in my opinion, sandbox games usually do very wrong, and I hope I'll be able to learn from that.

Every sandbox game I've ever played started out so very promising: There is an interesting world for you to explore, so many things to do, and many dangers to face. It doesn't last, however. After a while, excitement turns into boredom and adventure turns into tedium. There's still plenty to explore, but nothing to discover that looks different from what you've already seen.

Not so in FTL: With each playthrough you start a new adventure. The game won't let you stand still for long, always driving you forward and always pressuring you. It forces you to make choices. Not all of those are easy, and eventually one of them will be the wrong one. This leads to an exciting story with ups and downs. Whether you win or lose, in the end you always had an interesting adventure, a story worth telling.

Von Neumann Defense Force will look nothing like FTL does, but I want it to have the same feeling of adventure, of players creating their own stories. VNDF won't be a game where you run back and forth for hours, continually accumulating loot or resources. Any attempt to gain something new will require you to risk what you already have.

In VNDF, you won't be able to climb upwards steadily. There will be times when you lose, and that might frustrate you, but it will also make your wins that much sweeter. When you play Von Neumann Defense Force it won't be a smooth ride, but hopefully a time worth talking about.

Development Update

The weeks leading up to last month's newsletter had been a bit slow. Surely this time around I have some better news? Well, kind of.

Those last few weeks I've been working like a madman on a secret project that might completely change the immediate future of Von Neumann Defense Force. It is an experiment that, if it succeeds, might take the development into a new direction. I'm still in the middle of this, however, and am not yet ready to talk about it.

Here's what will happen: If the experiment succeeds, I will have a big announcement ready for you in next month's newsletter. If it fails, I'll have wasted 6 weeks of development time and will be going back to business as usual. One way or another, you'll hear all about it right here in one month! Exciting, isn't it?

In Other News

As always, I'm going to close the newsletter with some space- and gaming-related news from around the Internet.

JAXA has successfully launched the Hayabusa 2 mission! If everything goes to plan, the craft will arrive at its target, the asteroid (162173) 1999 JU3, in 2018, land there and return surface samples back to earth in 2020.

NASA has completed a very successful first test flight of its new Orion capsule. During the 4-hour flight, the unmanned capsule reached a distance of about 5800 kilometers from earth, the farthest any human-rated spacecraft has gone since the last Apollo mission in 1972! I'm not so sure that this really is the first step towards a manned Mars mission, but it's certainly exciting that NASA is regaining its capability to send humans beyond low Earth orbit.

I really like this visualization of Curiosity's progress in its 28 months on Mars. The video at the top is really nice!

See You Next Time

Do you have any questions about this newsletter or Von Neumann Defense Force in general? Send them to me! I'd love to do a Q & A in some future newsletter.

Thanks for reading, and see you next month for VNDF's January newsletter!